Review Summary: Victory Records finally stumbles upon a winner.
You probably have not heard of Islander - and that is unacceptable. Islander is a rising four-piece out of Greenville, South Carolina. On July 8th, 2014, the band released their debut full length, Violence & Destruction
, on Victory Records. Unfortunately, the album has somewhat flown under the radar. This should not be the case because Islander has released a well-rounded album complete with strong songwriting, sincere lyrics, and a level of passion that is bound to catch on with the masses.
Musically, the band plays a brand of alternative metal derived from the play books of Deftones, Letlive., and Glassjaw. Like those groups, listeners are not going to be dazzled by frenzied fret board runs or exotic time signatures conceived from the aftermath of Yahtzee dice rolls. Instead, Islander keep the instrumentation relatively simple and prefer to groove with a certain amount of swagger not expected from a band with merely two EP’s under their belt. Fortunately for listeners, the quartet has more than enough songwriting chops and passion to keep things interesting.
“Counteract” opens the album in punishing fashion by mixing driving verses, a bouncy and commanding chorus, and a slow-burning bridge that barely manages to refrain from boiling over into chaos. “Pains” arrives later in the set and showcases the band at their darkest and most explosive as the song blasts from lurching, bleak verses to a sludgy chorus before folding into itself - think Deftones’ “Prince” meets Glassjaw’s “Stars” and you have “Pains”. Islander is not a one trick pony though as “Kingdom” and “New Wave” captures a more melodic side of the outfit. The former builds from a sparse beat and front man Mikey Carvajal’s hushed singing to a charging, half-screamed apex while the latter floats sleepily during the verses only to soar once the chorus washes over, capturing the crown as the most massive refrain on the record. Simply put, Islander has managed to meld melody with mayhem throughout Violence & Destruction
and the result is a surprisingly engaging musical experience.
However, the most impressive aspect of Violence & Destruction
is Carvajal’s lyrics, which are generally positive and uplifting in nature. For example, take the addictive first single “Coconut Dracula”, where the lyrics are centered on the concept of Count Dracula discovering a coconut on the ground only to take a bite of it and realize that there’s a sweeter side to life than hurting people. Count’s roommates - Frankenstein, Mummy, Werewolf, and Witch - are taken aback by the vampire’s actions and yearn to be less of a monster themselves. The lyrics are spoken from the Mummy’s perspective and the song’s message is summarized with the lines, “You’re not out for blood/You only want what’s beautiful/You’re in love with truth/I want to be someone more like you…”
Carvajal’s words take a decidedly more pointed turn on the frenetic “Side Effects Of Youth” as he spits, “Hey, I get it/The sun has never seemed so bright/The colors never seemed so loud/And there’s so many pretty girls/I get it/But don’t forget who you are and who you were/Because if you put passion before principle/You’ll lose…”
and “It’s just the side effects of youth that make you do those foolish things you do…”
Perhaps the most concise delivery of the band’s overall message throughout the album appears during the last seconds of the title track and album closer, “Violence & Destruction”, when Carvajal sings, “Oh please cover me in light/I don’t feel so good/It won’t be long until the fires crash like waves against the sky/Rise up and speak/Let life in.”
Admittedly, Islander’s Violence & Destruction
does not reinvent the wheel. The band shamelessly salutes their influences repeatedly throughout the record’s runtime and critics will be quick to point to this as the major blemish of the band’s debut full length. Yet, with varied, catchy songwriting and a positive message, Islander has crafted a sturdy foundation from which to develop their promising sound. Victory Records has finally stumbled upon a winner.